Welcome To Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

One visit to LANWR and you will know why our Friends organization cares so deeply about the incredible and unique diversity of plants and wildlife found here.  The refuge is located in deep south Texas overlooking beautiful Laguna Madre Bay with panoramic views of South Padre Island on the eastern horizon.  The refuge landscape retains its historic wildness, including extensive wetlands, beaches, dunes, tidal flats, coastal prairie, savannah, brushlands and lomas.  A five square mile area next to Laguna Madre Bay known as the Bayside Resaca National Natural Landmark, exemplifies the best known example of the unique resaca system (old meander channels of the Rio Grande) that occurs in south Texas.   

blue crab
An impressive 410 species of birds, 45 mammals, 44 kinds of reptiles, 130 butterfly and 450 plant species have been recorded here.  Eight federally listed endangered and threatened animal species and twenty-three state listed species depend on the vanishing habitats that are preserved here at Laguna Atascosa NWR, including ocelots, northern aplomado falcons, brown pelicans, Texas horned lizard, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. 

The mission of Friends of Laguna Atascosa is to protect, support and enhance the refuge.  As a 501(3)c non-profit organization, we raise funds, administer grants, sponsor educational outreach activities, and are politically active in the interest of the refuge and regional wildlife.  Friends receive funding through memberships, grants, sponsorships, and donations, 100% of which goes toward wildlife conservation.  

No wonder so many concerned people like YOU (nature lovers, conservationists, wildlife watchers, volunteers, birders, photographers, outdoor enthusiasts, ranchers, educators, anglers, hunters, business people and more) have come together to support Friends of LANWR.  

Please Join Us!



Friends Statement on the Proposed Border Wall at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

The Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (FLANWR) is opposed to the proposed 18 foot
high and 3-mile long border wall through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (SANWR), located
approximately 7 miles south of Alamo and 50 miles west of LANWR. Since 1997, our mission has been
to support and enhance the wildlife conservation endeavors of the refuge. We believe that the ecological
and social impacts from construction of this proposed border wall segment have the potential to
negatively affect Santa Ana NWR and the surrounding communities, including the Laguna Atascosa
The border the U.S. shares with Mexico is about 2,000 miles long. A border wall of different types of
fence segments currently totals about 670 miles. Customs and Border Protection spent $2.4 billion
completing these 670 mile segments from 2006 to 2009, an average of over $3.5 million per mile.
Proposed border wall construction on the levee directly behind the Santa Ana visitor center and
maintenance facilities could block refuge staff, visitors and many wildlife species from access to the
majority of the 2,088 acre refuge along the Rio Grande River, including birding/nature trails, observation
tower and the canopy walk. Santa Ana NWR is one of the top bird-watching destinations in the U.S.,
hosting more than 400 species of birds. Known as the “crown jewel” of the National Wildlife Refuge
system, the Santa Ana NWR attracts an estimated 160,000 visitors per year1 and contributes substantially
to the $463 million annual ecotourism economy in the Rio Grande Valley. For most out of town visitors,
the Santa Ana Refuge is one of the primary reasons for visiting the Valley. Therefore, reduced visitation at
the Santa Ana NWR translates to decreased ecotourism in the Valley, which will affect other natural areas,
including the Laguna Atascosa NWR.
Ecologically, Santa Ana NWR provides habitat for a myriad of subtropical riparian species of plants and
animals. Historically, it was inhabited by federally listed species like the endangered jaguarundi and
ocelot, and today is essential for efforts underway to recover the U.S. ocelot population. Ocelot
conservation and management is one of the highest priorities for the Laguna Atascosa NWR, and
maintaining a natural, barrier free river corridor is essential to connect U.S. and Mexico ocelot
populations in order to increase genetic diversity.
The hasty decision to construct a segment of the border wall through Santa Ana NWR is predicated on the
fact that it is already U.S. government property, meaning acquisition is not subject to lengthy and costly
legal disputes currently or likely involved in acquisition of privately owned border property, which makes
up the majority border lands. To fast- track construction, which may begin as early as this November, the
Administration is planning to waive standard public input procedures, environmental impact studies, and
compliance with all standard procedure environmental laws.
FLANWR contends that before any further construction of any segment of the
border wall begins:
- all immigration reform strategy alternatives be exhaustively examined by legislators
- a complete legislatively approved national immigration reform policy be established
- a complete legislatively approved border wall plan be established if border wall construction is
part of the overall approved immigration reform plan
- all environmental protections and public input processes normally applied to projects of this
nature, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, and the 2008 amendment to the border
wall legislation that required Homeland Security to consult with local stakeholders to
“minimize the impact on the environment, culture, commerce and quality of life” be upheld and
completed as well
- all pending and potential legal rights to construct any approved border wall plan segment
through private property be resolved as a condition before any construction begins, and
- all funding for the plan be legislatively approved and secured before any construction begins
To do otherwise, and proceed with construction of this proposed 3 mile segment of border wall
through Santa Ana NWR, will be ecologically devastating, wastefully expensive, financially
impactful to the RGV tourism economy, and make no positive contribution to U.S. immigration
reform. It will be an unconscionable and unnecessary overreach of the executive branch leading
to nothing more than a ‘mission accomplished’ photo opportunity paraded in front of a wasteful
$10+ million backdrop and flaunted as a campaign promise fulfilled!
Please join us and other organizations and individuals in opposition to border wall construction
in Santa Ana NWR.


Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Known as the last great habitat in coastal south Texas, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) supports a diversity of wildlife unlike anywhere else in the United States.  The refuge is made up of four major units: the 45,187 acre Laguna Atascosa Unit adjacent to the west side of lower Laguna Madre Bay, the 24,808 acre South Padre Island Unit north of the town of SPI, the 21,762 acre Bahia Grande Unit between state highways 48 and 100 about one mile west of Port Isabel, TX, and the 5,250 acre Coastal Corridor Unit.

With the refuge’s primary mission of providing habitat for native wildlife, this nearly 100,000 acres provides for a wide diversity of species.  Visitors can enjoy many birds including green jays, plain chachalacas, Harris’ hawks, white-tailed hawks, olive sparrows, Altamira orioles, and aplomado falcons.  Fall and spring bring migratory songbirds and peregrine falcons, and winter is the time to see sandhill cranes, white-fronted geese, redhead ducks and many other waterfowl.

Common mammals include bobcat, coyote, javelina, Mexican ground squirrel, and white-tailed deer.  More elusive are the endangered ocelot and jaguarundi.

Reptiles include American alligator, indigo snake, Texas tortoise, western diamondback rattlesnake and coral snake.  The South Padre Island Unit provides nesting habitat for sea turtles - Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, hawksbill and Atlantic green.

Visitors can connect with nature through a variety of activities including fishing, hunting, wildlife observation and photography, bicycling, hiking and interpretive tours and programs.  A Visitor Center with exhibits, restrooms, and a nature store is available.

For more information, including hours of operation and tour schedules, please visit the refuge's official website www.fws.gov/refuge/laguna_atascosa or call the visitor center 956-748-3607 ext 111.  Click here to learn more.

Latest News

January 2017 Newsletter by FriendsAdmin
November 2016 Newsletter by FriendsAdmin
October 2016 Newsletter by FriendsAdmin
September 2016 Newsletter by FriendsAdmin

Save Texas Ocelots

The last remaining ocelots in the United States are found
only in Texas. You can help save these beautiful
endangered cats and help spread the word about
protecting Texas Ocelots by buying this specialty
license plate for your vehicle for only $30.00 additional. 
 (Specialty License Plate)  

The non-profit organization,
Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.org, will receive $22.00 from the sale of every Save Texas Ocelots license plate, 100% of which will go to Ocelot Conservation.

We thank YOU for helping keep ocelots thriving as part of our Great Texas Natural Heritage

Click here to buy your Ocelot Specialty plate.

Adopt an Ocelot

Ocelots need your help.  You can Adopt an Ocelot to help our population of endangered cats survive and thrive in South Texas. Adopt one ocelot or a family.  You will receive an adoption certificate for the Ocelot you are helping.  An adoption packet will be mailed to you. It will include: a certificate of adoption suitable for framing; information on what is being done to ensure ocelots will be around for a long time; and updates on other ocelots found on the Laguna Atascosa NWR.  Adopt an ocelot for someone you love!  Click here to Adopt an Ocelot.


Help the Friends of Laguna Atascosa by making a contribution to support wildlife conservation projects at the refuge.  100% of all donations will be used to keep the refuge a thriving wildlife haven!  Click here to learn how you can help.

Friends Store

Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge operates a nature store at the refuge visitor center.  Field guides, clothing, optics, gifts and other nature oriented merchandise is available.  All profits go to support wildlife conservation efforts at the refuge.  Click to learn more.

Viva the Ocelot

Endangered Species

endangered ocelot

Federally listed endangered species are those plants and animals that are in danger of extinction in all or parts of its U.S. range.  Those animals listed as endangered on Laguna Atascosa NWR are ocelot, jaguarundi, northern aplomado falcon, piping plover, brown pelican, and four species of sea turtles including the Kemp’s Ridley.  Also found on the refuge are Texas state threatened species, to include Texas tortoise, Texas horned lizard, Texas indigo snake, white-tailed hawk, American peregrine falcon, reddish egret, wood stork and white-faced ibis. 

Why save endangered species


Habitat Is Where It's At!

aplomado Falcons

Every species of plant or animal lives naturally in a preferred habitat.  Good habitat for an animal provides food, water, shelter, and a suitable place to raise their young.  Without good natural habitat, an animal population simply cannot survive.  Overall, the most important aspect of wildlife conservation is habitat preservation.  Much attention is focused on saving iconic species such as ocelots and aplomado falcons.  At the forefront of those efforts are conservation organizations like Friends of Laguna Atascosa NWR who know that saving their habitat is where it’s at!  For example, saving the thornscrub habitat of an iconic species such as the endangered ocelot ensures suitable habitat for countless other species as well.  Please join us in our habitat conservation efforts. 

Wildlife Diversity at the Refuge

laguna madre bay

Situated on the Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge has recorded an impressive 417 species of birds, 45 mammals, 44 kinds of reptiles, 130 butterfly and 450 plant species.  The refuge is located in deep South Texas, which is considered to be one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America.  Come experience our wildlife.

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge - Visitor Hours of Operation

click to learn more.

  • Refuge open daily, sunrise to sunset. Use self-pay station outside the Visitor Center if Visitor Center is closed.  $3 per vehicle entrance fee.
  • Bayside Drive, the refuge's 14 mile auto tour loop, is temporarily closed to private vehicle traffic to protect endangered ocelots.  The Drive is open to bicycles and pedestrians, as well as guided tours.  Planning to modify the drive is underway and it will eventually reopen to vehicles.
  • Refuge walking and biking trails are open 7 days a week, sunrise to sunset.
  • Visitor Center is open 7 days a week, 8am to 4pm, October through April.  
  • Visitor Center is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays , May thru September.  
  • Visitor Center is open on New Year's Day and all other federal holidays except closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day.